What About Passenger Service?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Mountain Man, Jul 8, 2008.

  1. iis612

    iis612 Member

    I fail to agree in so much as air traffic is far more closely monitored, from movement of aircraft to who may be boarding the planes, and who is learning to fly them. Trains may not fall out of the sky but some of the commodities carried can be used to level a major city.
    The fact is that total body count is not exactly the goal of the terrorist groups. If rail service is disrupted the American economy takes another HUGE blow. There are more goods moving via rail today than there has been in recent years and if a section of rail is tampered with to the point of derailment then what do you think the FRA will do? What will shippers do? What will the railroads do?
  2. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    The goal of "terrorists" is to create "terror", a task at which they've succeeded admirably. No further planes need to be brought down, nor trains derailed - government-fed hysteria will do the job and has already begun to erode the civil liberties that we all value so highly (it's happening on my side of the border, too!). I'm not saying that nothing will happen again or that the threat isn't real, but the "commies" that lurked behind every lamppost in the past have donned turbans and grown beards. ;):p And as for damaging the economy, big business can take care of that task without any input from other factions. :-D
    And to get back to the topic: it's too bad that the network of branchlines and interurbans that once laced North America are gone, as had that infrastructure been economically viable to maintain, we'd have a ready-made alternative to our current situation. You could go to-and-from many places by rail or rail and steamer in the 1920s.

  3. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    If governments would subsidize new rail lines and train stations the way they subsidize highways and airports, I bet we would see more passenger rail lines.

    They are building a light-rail line here in Phoenix. Better public transportation is long overdue. Originally, over half the residents suppotred it. Once the construction headaches started, many supporters jumped ship and declared the unfinished line a waste of taxpayer money. Now that gas has gone up, I bet it will be popular and people will wish the trains were more convenient to where they live or work so that they could take advantage. But still, there is probably 25% of the local population who claim they will never ride it or consider riding it because riding public transportation is "beneath them".

  4. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    And passenger aircraft have been used as guided missiles to destroy the World Trade Center, by terrorists who had zero difficulty learning to fly them right here in America. Currently, a large majority of passenger aircraft are maintained at service centers outside of America - why? Because labor is cheaper and there is no FAA oversight or inspection. That might be your idea of safe travel, but it isn't mine.

    Terrorism is an entirely different subject. A nuclear device that will level an entire city can be fitted into a suitcase in the trunk of a car - should we stop driving? How big a nuclear device will fit into a semi-trailer? Shall we give up interstate commerce as well? No one is inspecting even a tiny fraction of modular freight containers that enter America's harbors by the millions every year - let's shut down all shipping as well. For that matter, when I was stationed in Korea, there were eighty pound back-pack tactical nukes that could be carried and emplaced by a single soldier. Better not let anybody walk around carrying anything, either.

    Someone usually survives a train crash - very few people ever walk away from an airliner crash - and computerized fly-by-wire aircraft cannot and will not survive a burst of EMP. Every single aircraft within range will fall out of the skies like a ruptured duck, and they all have the glide characteristics of an anvil. Trains, OTH, will coast to a halt as will automobiles.

    Absolutely nothing in America is terrorist-proof, period.

    Meanwhile, the original question about the possible future and/or return of rail passenger service remains on the table. If the railroads do not take up the slack, and it appears to be the majority opinion on this forum is that they will not, then what will be the future of transportation in America? Are Americans simply going to stay home instead of traveling? How long before the airlines, who are openly dedicated to alienating the very passengers that insure their economic survival, go broke and stop flying? What takes their place?

    Not so very long ago, there were many different airlines serving America, which was a major factor in the decline of other forms of public transportation. Now only a handful of airlines remain and they are struggling to survive. My best guess is that foreign airlines will take up the slack if we don't. Greyhound can barely maintain the sorry excuses for buses that are on the roads now - don't look to them to serve the public.

    But I'm curious - trucks and modular containers have been fitted onto railroad flatcars for decades. There are auto-trains. What stops the development of a modular passenger unit that can be fitted to an existing flatcar body when needed and removed and replaced with freight when it isn't? A simple modular unit with seats and windows, some attachment hardware, power hook-ups and self-contained chemical toilets and viola` - passenger service at a fraction of the cost. Why can't passenger units such as that be part of a freight consist? It used to be done that way all the time. You could even pack the passengers into those discarded, broken down Greyhound buses, fix the toilets, and load those onto the flatcars.

    Too bad I don't own a railroad - I don't see any of this as insoluble at all; I see it as one of the greatest opportunities in recent times. People just have to stop saying "we can't" and start doing.

    It hard to imagine that we built the trans-continental railroads and opened up an entire continent. I guess Americans were a much different breed back then.
  5. ScratchyAngel

    ScratchyAngel Member

    Still, when a project is a mess it's a "Train Wreck" and not a "Plane Crash"
  6. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    That's for sure!

    I don't think that the problem is insoluble, but I think that the general public has yet to reach a point where they feel that the problem needs solving - I'm okay, Jack! is still the prevalent attitude.

    I think that's true, not just in America, but in all of what we'd call the developed world. The real entrepreneurs, risk takers, and "can-do" types are in the emerging industrial nations, where they're not yet stifled by government bureaucracy and a complacent populace.

  7. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Let's not forget that the US (and Canada too, I think) is one of the few, if only, places in the world were you actually pay the cost it takes to provide fuel and highways. Europe keeps the prices artificially high (I checked last week...and figured out that gas was $15 per gallon in York!?!). In much of asia, the costs of cars (china, india, etc) is far too great for most people to really afford (although they do subsidize it to help their upper middle class afford cars)...and I'd bet the Japan's real estate situation renders parking to be off the charts expensive/impossible (again, Europe frequently has parking problems in the major cities).

    The SP and the NYC were the only major railroads to claim to make money on passenger service. Losing the mail contracts really hurt the railroads too.

    I recall a conversation about passenger service with a shortline operator...he grossed $1,000,000 with his steam excursions...and $40,000,000 on the freight side of things. The excursions were break even at best...despite the tourist draw in the region...and more importantly...they were a nuisance to his freight business.
  8. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    You mean because the expression was created prior to the invention of aircraft?

    Personally, I don't use the expression "train wreck" to describe anything other than an actual train wreck. Being ex-military, my expressions of choice are either BOHICA, SNAFU or FUBAR - much more descriptive terms with greater depth and eloquence. :cool:
  9. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    This is why I think someone needs to start thinking about alternative passenger service:


    The two most significant parts of the articles are:

    a) the recent loss of eight airlines, and

    b) dropping "unprofitable" routes to save operating expenses.

    A lot of Americans do not live on a "profitable route", so what happens to them?
  10. ScratchyAngel

    ScratchyAngel Member

    Nah, it just has more staying power for whatever reason. On the flip side, I guess things are "on track" when all is well. But I'm not sure these things really fly, or who knows maybe plane crash will take off soon.
  11. Dave1905

    Dave1905 Member

  12. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

  13. iis612

    iis612 Member

    My mention of terrorism was not an attempt to stear this thread in another direction. I was loosely quoting information from the department of homeland security bulletins I have read.
    To answer your question about air travel, no I don't feel that flying is safe. I didn't before 9/11 either.

    I stand in agreement on most of your other points, especially where it comes to the government stepping up with funding, although I don't know where they would get it.
    My original post stated that the big 4 RR's could work together to make an economically viable passenger system, and I would stand in line to take a trip if they did. I would also be willing to get involved in a campaign to get the government, and general society on board. Just don't let me be the public speaker as it seems I have a great ability to rub people the wrong way.
  14. rekline

    rekline Member

    The biggest issue is time for train travel. If I take my family to Florida, it is about 24 hours car ride (Long and probably requires a rest stop). 24 hours by train but drops us off not at the most convenient location. Looking into using the Auto-train but that has difficulties from where we start. A plane is 3 hours flight time plus time spent for security. With a limited vacation time, I get 2 extra days for fun in the sun and that is why planes are so popular. The other problem That I have is the times Amtrak runs. To visit my parents, I have to pick up the train at really ridiculous hours 4:15 or so AM. Not really appealling. When time is limited, planes will rule, when it is the getting there, trains will dominate. If you had the EU's TGV system. That would make the trip by train far more appealing.
  15. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    But only on the longer distances. Even the 1 hour plane ride from Ottawa to Toronto is beat by a train trip, and is similar for trips Ottawa to Montreal (<2 hours train vs 45 min air) or Toronto - Montreal (4 hours train/1+ hour air).

    From my house to a fictional meeting in downtown Toronto:

    By air:
    Drive to airport drop-off - 30 minutes
    Arrive 1 hour early for (self) check-in, security, etc - 1 hour
    Board - 30 minutes
    Flight - 1 hour
    Drive from Pearson Int'l to downtown - up to 1 hour

    Total - 4 hours

    By train:

    Home - train station - 10 minutes
    Train trip - 4 hours
    Station to meeting - 15 minutes

    Total - less than 4.5 hours

    So for a half hour extra, I get a meal, coffee, use of cellphone, laptop, a newspaper, the room to actually use all those things, plus room to walk around, and a great view to boot.

    Amen to that. The Canadian/provincial governments keep mentioning this for Southern Ontario and or Windsor (ON) to Quebec City (QC). But it never materializes. Could also work in NE US, California/West Coast, and/or one transcontinental line. But the cost of infrastructure always limits the discussions...

  16. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

  17. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

Share This Page